A former basketball coach accused of rape did not have a constitutional right to engage in consensual sex with a female student who attended the same high school where he worked, a judge ruled Friday.
Oklahoma County District Judge Jerry D. Bass overruled a motion filed by defense attorney David Slane to strike down the state's age of consent law and dismiss the case against client Tyrone Lamont Nash.
Nash, 33, of Oklahoma City, is charged with five counts of second-degree rape and five counts of forcible oral sodomy. The former Western Heights High School coach was arrested Sept. 9 after the student, 16, told police she had been having sex with a teacher.
“This court cannot conclude the defendant has a constitutionally protected and fundamental right to engage in a sexual relationship with a consenting minor who is a student at the same school where he is employed as a teacher,” Bass wrote in his opinion.
Under Oklahoma law, the age of consent for sexual intercourse and oral sodomy is 16, unless the acts are committed by a school district employee.
“Obviously, we're disappointed with the judge's ruling and we respectfully disagree,” Slane said.
Slane filed the motion in September asking Bass, the trial judge in Nash's case, to overturn statutes for second-degree rape and oral sodomy as they apply to school district employees.
Slane argued that Oklahoma statutes should be found unconstitutional because they violate his client's fundamental right to privacy guaranteed by the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.
But Bass ruled the statutes are constitutional because “a rational basis exists for the state's legitimate interest in the protection of students, their well-being and safe school environment, and the victim involved was a minor.”
Slane argued the law should be rewritten by the Oklahoma Legislature to apply only to teachers and other school employees who wield some sort of power, control or influence over a student.
Nash, he said, was not the girl's teacher. The girl was a volunteer helper for the basketball team Nash coached, the attorney said.
The attorney cited a March 29 decision by the Arkansas Supreme Court to overturn a man's conviction on four counts of second-degree assault with a student who was 18, saying both of them had a constitutional right to privacy because they were consenting adults.
Bass, however, said that while that case and Nash's case are similar, the Arkansas case involved a consensual relationship between two consenting adults, not one between an adult and a minor.
Nash, who is free on $50,000 bail, resigned from Western Heights last year. He is awaiting trial.
“He is confident that once his case goes to trial he'll be found not guilty,” Slane said.
Both sides are expected to appeal the judge's ruling to the court of criminal appeals, which could delay Nash's trial indefinitely.
Slane said he expects the judge to set a March trial date in the case.